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Friday, November 14, 2008

Need something to do this weekend?

If you're a St. Louis bicyclist needing something to do Saturday night, here's a couple of suggestions:

Bicycle Bash -- A Salute to Cycling: The St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation will be putting on its Bicycle Bash -- A Salute to Cycling from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the William A. Kerr Foundation, 21 O'Fallon St. in St. Louis on the edge of the Laclede's Landing district. The party will celebrate another successful season of bicycling fun! Entertainment by Big Budget Blues Band. Bring a dish for the buffet table if you like, or just show up. Admission is a suggested donation of $10 at the door. Proceeds will go toward the Bike Fed's ongoing work.

Einstein on a Bike Trivia Night: Trailnet, the St. Louis-based organization that promotes the construction of trails in the St. Louis region and bicycle riding through its Bicycle Fun Club, will be putting on its first-ever Einstein on a Bike Trivia Night at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Blvd. in St. Louis' Central West End. The good news for Trailnet -- but the bad news for you -- is that all the tables are booked for the event. That means unless you know somebody who needs an extra player for his or her team, you're out of luck.

On its Web site, the Bike Fed apologizes for scheduling its bicycle party the same night as the Trailnet event, but the group is hoping that many people can still make both events.

Beyond this weekend, mark your calendar for these events:
  • Highway 40 West End Opening Celebration: The STL Bike Fed and Big Shark Bicycle Co. are planning the Ride 64 bicycle event, which tiedto the Missouri Department of Transportation's West End Opening Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 14. The west section of the rebuilt Interstate 64-U.S. Route 40, better known as Highway 40 to the locals, reopens to motorized traffic on Dec. 15.

    Bike 64 consists of a fun ride on the westbound lanes of the highway from noon to 2:30 p.m. and a 9-mile time trial, also on the westbound lanes of the highway, also from noon to 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required for both events. The cost of the fun ride is $25 for adults and $10 for kids 15 and younger and go up to $35 and $15 respectively after Dec. 3. The cost of the time trial is $25. Proceeds from the fun ride will go toward the Bike Fed's efforts to install bike racks in St. Louis city and county.

    You better ride it while you can. Once the road reopens to motorized traffic, bicycles are prohibited from interstate highways in Missouri.

  • Cranksgiving Day Food Ride: St. Louis BicycleWORKS will be putting on its third annual Cranksgiving Day Food Ride at noon Sunday, Nov. 23 at BicycleWORKS' shop at 4109 Shenandoah Ave. in St. Louis. Last year, 72 riders donated hundreds of food items to those who needed them. BicycleWORKS hopes to triple the amount this year. Each participant on the 5- or 25-mile routes will be asked to buy at least $20 in food and be able to carry the goods with them on their bicycles. The rain date is Sunday, Nov. 30.

  • Friends of Hostelling Trivia Night: The Gateway Council of Hostelling International, which puts on the Moonlight Ramble, Tour de Stooges and other great cycling events, will put on a Trivia Night on Jan. 16 at the Maryland Heights Community Center at 2344 McKelvey Road in Maryland Heights, Mo. The cost of the event is $120 for a table of eight, and all proceeds will be use for the development of a hostel in north St. Louis.

  • Tour de Stooges: Speaking of the ride that I lead for the Gateway Council, the 12th edition of the Tour de Stooges will take place Saturday, May 2, in Highland, Ill. I expect to update the site in the next week, and registration for the event likely will open in the neighborhood of Jan. 1.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge's financial struggle

Funding cutbacks for the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge have Madison Mayor John Hamm concerned, the Granite City Press-Record reports. Trailnet officials recently had told the mayor that it didn't have enough money to pay the Madison Police Department to open and close the bridge. He said it had threatened to close the bridge except on special occasions.

On June 23, Trailnet curtailed the bridge's hours: "
Due to funding limitations, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge will be open between 9 a.m. and dusk until further notice. When the bridge is closed, please use the McKinley Bridge to cross the Mississippi River."

Last week, Trailnet Executive Director Ann Mack addressed the Madison City Council about the financial concerns. Here's an excerpt from the Press-Record story:
In an interview later, she that the shortfall occurred after funding from Great Rivers Greenway, a publicly funded park district which services St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, dried up.

Mack said Trailnet receives less than 12 percent of its funding from public sources and that the organization has received money from federal earmarks in the past.
Mack said Trailnet would be talking with local shareholders about the importance of keeping the bridge open within four to six weeks.

Hamm said it's important the bridge stay open because grants that the city received to improve the Illinois parking lot were tied to the bridge staying open.

The city of Madison owns the bridge, and Trailnet leases the bridge from the city. The bridge was constructed in 1929 and once carried Route 66 across the Mississippi River. Madison had operated the bridge as a toll bridge from 1939 to 1968, when the nearby Interstate 270 bridge took away too much traffic for the bridge to remain profitable.

Trailnet has had other problems with the bridge in recent years, most notably with car break-ins at the Missouri parking lot. Because of that, the Missouri parking lot now is open only for special events. Otherwise, people who drive cars to the bridge have to park either at North Riverfront Park, about 1.4 miles south of the bridge, or at the Illinois parking lot on Chouteau Island. Much of the Riverfront Trail on the Missouri side of the river remains closed because of cleanup from the recent flooding.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation also has reported on this issue, also citing the Press-Record story.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

More video from St. Louis Bike to Work Day

Had I spent a little more time searching yesterday on CBS News, I would have found this Web-only video taken Friday during St. Louis' Bike to Work Day. Fortunately, someone over at the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation found it, and I pass it on to you.

Nancy Cordes, CBS's transportation and consumer safety correspondent, interviewed Trailnet Executive Director Ann Mack about the increase in bicycle lanes in St. Louis and the increase interest in bicycling prompted by high gasoline prices.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Trailnet, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to enrich the St. Louis region by promoting bicycle and pedestrian activities and collaborating with the public and private sectors to ensure and enhance a premier trail system.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

CBS News to film St. Louis cyclists

CBS News plans to include St. Louis in an upcoming segment about Bike to Work Week. Here's the information I got from Trailnet Executive Director Ann Mack on Friday:
Help Trailnet show the nation a bike-friendly St. Louis! CBS News will be traveling through St. Louis on Friday, May 16. In recognition of Bike to Work Day, (CBS) will be filming at Trailnet's Bike to Work Day Refueling Station at the Missouri History Museum at 6:00 AM. The visual will be a sea of cyclists in brightly colored jerseys.

The correspondent will interview bike commuters, set up some shots and then would like to join a group of cyclists on their commute to work downtown. Please plan to participate and show your bike jersey colors. ...

We are hoping for a good crowd so please forward this to your friends and fellow cyclists. Don't forget: 6:00 a.m., Friday, May 16 at the Missouri History Museum Refueling Station.
I'm afraid you can count me out. Given that I don't normally get to bed until about 3 a.m. on Fridays, there's no way on God's green Earth that I can be up that early. I do, however, support the effort and hope those of you who can be up that early can join in on the fun.

The Missouri History Museum is one of 20 "refueling stations" on Friday, which Trailnet has designated as Bike to Work Day in the St. Louis area. Unfortunately for people who might be tempted to bike to work from Illinois into Missouri, there are no refueling stations on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. The closest station for Illinois residents is the Downtown YMCA at 1528 Locust St.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Trailnet changes starting point for ride

Trailnet's Bicycle Fun Club has changed the starting location for its Lewis and Clark Departure Days Ride planned for Saturday, May 11. The ride will now start at the Missouri entrance to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge due to flooding. Registration for the bike ride is 8:30 - 10:00 a.m. SAG support is offered until 3 p.m., and secure parking is provided until 5 p.m. Vehicles must be removed from the Missouri bridge entrance parking lot by 5 p.m.

The reason for the change is flooded grass parking lots at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site near Hartford, Ill. Days of rain have saturated the grassy areas of the historic site. Most of the ride is on roads and Madison County Transit trails in Illinois, and those have not been affected by flooding.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Think spring!

Today is the first day of spring. Woo-hoo!

Although we're expecting some late-winter temperatures for Easter weekend here in Belleville, Ill, the tide is gradually turning. It's time to be thinking about group rides. Here's some St. Louis area rides to whet your appetite:
  • The Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society opens its 2008 season of Wednesday Evening Rides on April 2. During April, our rides will start at the Metro East Parks and Recreation Center headquarters, 100 United Drive in Collinsville, and we'll be riding the Madison County Trails system. We'll meet at 6 p.m. and take off at 6:15, although people may leave earlier if they want to get more miles in.
  • Trailnet's Bicycle Fun Club opens its 2008 season on Sunday, April 13, with the Prairie Pedal Bicycle Ride in Hamel, Ill. Hamel is a small community just off Interstate 55 about 7 miles north of Edwardsville. Registration is from 8:30 to 10 a.m.
  • The Team HopeRide for a Cure will take place Saturday, April 26, in Maryville, Ill. This fund-raising ride for the American Cancer Society includes routes of 13, 26 and 62 miles on the Madison County Trails system. Registration will take place from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Maryville. The cost of the ride is $15 ($20 day of ride) for adults and $40 ($50 day of event) for families. for more information and to get a flier, contact Mike Green at or call Dean Mc Peak at 618-920-3418 or Robin Warfield at 618-781-1075.
  • Early registration is strong for the Tour de Stooges on Saturday, May 3, at the ride's new home, Lindendale Park in Highland, Ill. The cost of the ride is $30 for adults and $20 for children, and if you pre-register for the ride, you will get a T-shirt in addition to lunch, rest stops and slapstick comedy. Tour de Stooges is the opening event of the Gateway Council of Hostelling International's new series of recreational rides, which includes the Strawberry Fields Forever ride on May 24 at Eckert's Country Store in Belleville.
  • For those of you who love to ride centuries, the Gateway Council's 5-Star Century Series gets started Saturday, May 17, with the Indian Crossing Century in Portage des Sioux, Mo., and continues with the Flat-as-a-Pancake Century on May 31 in New Baden, Ill.
  • Finally, there's The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride on Sunday, June 1, in Belleville. The ride is a fund-raiser for Gerry Frierdich, a Belleville photographer who was paralyzed from the chest down when a pickup truck struck his recumbent bicycle on Aug. 19, 2007.
If you know of any other great spring rides that people should know about, feel free to post them in the comments.

It's time to get out and ride!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge parking update

Starting April 1, Trailnet will make monitored attendant parking available at the Missouri entrance to the historic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Monitored parking will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday until November 1. St. Louis Parking will be collecting fees of $3 per vehicle and $10 for 15-passenger or larger vehicles at the Missouri lot. Walkers and bicyclists entering the bridge from the St. Louis Riverfront Trail and Madison County Transit's Confluence Trail will not be charged.

Because of vandalism and car thefts in the Missouri parking lot, Trailnet closed access to the parking area during the off-peak season when monitored parking is not provided. The bridge is open daily for bicycle and pedestrian access, from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.

Trailnet is committed to keeping the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge open to bicyclists and pedestrians, Trailnet Executive Director Ann Mack said in a press release. There is also free parking at the Illinois entrance to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge."

Trailnet, in partnership with the city of Madison, Ill., renovated the bridge as a bicycle/pedestrian bridge. For many decades the bridge was a key link in the beloved Route 66 and was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the bridge is a key link in the bi-state trail system and is part of The Confluence Project, a riverside conservation, heritage and recreation corridor being developed in the St. Louis region.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge break-ins

If you're planning to do some biking, walking or viewing of bald eagles on the historic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River, don't plan on parking on the Missouri side of the river -- at least for now.

Trailnet -- the St. Louis nonprofit agency that leases the bridge from the city of Madison, Ill., and operates the bridge -- announced Monday that the St. Louis parking lot has been closed.

In Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "On Your Side" columnist Matthew Hathaway reported on the rash of vandalism and car thefts at the Missouri parking lot. Here's the first three paragraphs of the column:
The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge may be the best place in town to take in stunning views of the Mississippi River. Last month, the National Park Service agreed and listed the 78-year-old span on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pity is that it's hard to take in the vistas midway over the 5,353-foot-long pedestrian bridge while keeping an eye on your car parked on the Missouri side. There is no security there and, not surprisingly, break-ins are common. It's so bad that St. Louis police posted signs warning visitors to keep valuables locked in their trunks.

Petty criminals may not be the brightest of the bunch, but they often are literate. And, usually, they know that most trunks can be opened from the inside, once you smash through the driver's side window.
The column goes on to describe a St. Louis County family's recent experience on the bridge, in which a thief broke into the car, popped the trunk and stole two purses. One of the women told the Post-Dispatch that the break-in was the fifth one reported that day.

On Monday, Trailnet Executive Director Ann Rivers Mack responded to the Post-Dispatch article. Here's the text of that response:
TO: Post Dispatch Editorial Staff
We at Trailnet value the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge as a tremendous asset to our region. We have invested significant capital into making Bridge improvements and are also invested in ensuring parking safety. We are extremely frustrated with the difficulties in addressing car break-ins at the Bridge.

Over the last six months, we have taken a number of steps to address parking including a three-season parking attendant (at a significant loss to Trailnet); warnings on our website; alerting 4,000+ e-Newsletter subscribers; and additional warning signs installed at the Bridge. Vandalism none-the-less continues and we are working on a long-term plan.

Currently, we are in discussions with Madison, IL and St. Louis Police and have closed the Missouri parking lot. The bridge continues to be open daily to walkers and cyclists.

Trailnet does not have the resources to continue to manage this community asset without long-term partners. In 2006, public funds represented less than 12% of our total budget. Given that Trailnet does not own the Bridge or parking lot, Bridge management plans include increasing regional stakeholder investment. These investments will better assure that the Bridge functions as a sustainable, safe and enjoyable venue for years to come.

We will update our website regularly on monitored parking and Bridge management plans.

Hathaway wrote a column about Trailnet's response in today's Post-Dispatch with the headline "Old Chain of Rocks Bridge: Odd solution." Hathaway is skeptical about Trailnet's temporary solution:
Trailnet is in the business of building trails and promoting walking and cycling. It isn't an anti-crime group. Still, Trailnet's solution to the break-ins seems hopelessly naive.

People willing to smash a car window may not be morally squeamish about mugging pedestrians and cyclists on the Missouri approach to the bridge especially if a closed parking lot means fewer people will visit the bridge and those who do will be more vulnerable.
The Illinois lot for the bridge remains open. To get there from Missouri, take Interstate 270 across the Mississippi and the Chain of Rocks canal to Illinois Route 3 (Exit 3A). Take Route 3 south to Chain of Rocks Road. Turn right on Chain of Rocks Road, and cross the canal bridge. The road dead-ends at the parking lot for the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

You may be wondering why the city of Madison, Ill., is involved in the bridge. The bridge was built in 1929 as a toll bridge and purchased by the city in 1939. The city operated it as a toll bridge until 1968, and it once carried historic Route 66 over the river. The Road Wanderer Web site gives a pretty good overview of the bridge.

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